Tag Archives: Weans

Go big or go back?

blur book stack books bookshelves



If I am brutally honest, it’s not getting any easier.

Not being in a class is not getting any easier. Not being with children every day is not getting any easier.

However, this year, I had the most wonderful group of young people for Advanced Higher Spanish. They were from all different schools and twice a week we met up for some very intense Spanish classes with our Spanish assistant too.

It was hard to establish a rhythm with them as I genuinely had no background to them or their families and all I had to go on was the fact that they all had either an A or B at Higher Spanish.

Whenever I have taught a CSYS (as it was back in the day) or Advanced Higher,  I have usually had the class for at least a year. Best Case was when I had them for 4 years…..

We were aiming to use the flipped learning model and then use out time together as tutorials – with the best will in the world,. this did not suit my learners one bit. They wanted to get to know me as well as each other and we needed to take some time out of teaching to just chat and establish those relationships. The characters soon started to come out: The cool one who never did homework but could speak great Spanish, the go getters who were just the most fantastic group of girls who were up for anything and full of enthusiasm, the thinkers – 2 of them who had the deepest thought processes I have ever witnessed in 17 year olds, the worrier – the girl who could do it but was frightened of letting everyone down, the quiet one who NEVER spoke but laughed and smiled when you spoke to her, the mysterious boy who said little but when he smiled he lit up the room. The one who needed a cuddle , the one who always had an excuse about not coming to class……All in all, a joy an absolute joy.

They found my style of teaching a bit different to adapt but soon realised how much we were doing and that going off piste didn’t mean we were not learning.  We filled in gaps of cultural knowledge, powered through some difficult grammar and developed a love for Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Some people argue that teaching is based on routines, some will say it is built on relationships. I think it is based on the young people in front of me and meeting them on their road.

We had some hilarious moments as I recalled stories from my travels. Some sad moments when the only thing I could think to ask was “do you need a hug” And it never fails to surprise me when a 17-year-old girl says yes please. Half an hour later and a shirt covered in tears and snotters is another special moment that will stay with me.

The moments I deal with policy, paperwork and admin, funnily enough don’t stay with me.

After the exam we went out for lunch and I reverted to type. I am horrific at saying goodbye to students. I get more upset than them. I still have not mastered the technique of not being emotionally attached. They gave me a beautiful card and wee gifts but when they presented me with a first edition signed book by Gabo – that was me. In bits. My turn for greetin.

So is it time to go big or go back?

The annual conversation with my pal of I think I need a new job. I can’t continue to do this.

His annual answer to me – don’t be daft. What is it you say – can’t have inspired weans without inspired teachers.

The answer from my boss when I get like this too:” the minute you stop missing the children is the minute you change careers.

I love my job. Just saying.

Photo by Janko Ferlic on Pexels.com


I still l miss you….

Do you not miss it? I don’t know how many times I have been asked that in the past few weeks.
I have been out of class full-time for about two and half years. Out of classes of weans. I still Teach but in a completely different setting. One of the things I have always worried about it is maintaining my credibility. A long time ago I sat in a meeting as CfE was discussed and I asked a senior leader what 2nd level literacy would look like in a primary and the answer I was given still horrifies me. ” I’m too far away from the class to know that”
As many times over the past few weeks I have wrestled with the idea of disappearing back to class.
You see, I miss teaching. I don’t miss the nonsense that surrounds it, but I miss the weans. I miss their stories, I miss their ideas and I miss how it made me feel.
Purely selfish I know.
However, my teaching environment has changed but no less meaningful. The jewel in the crown is when I get to teach for 4 hours with senior pupils. I can pretty much put up with any amount of stuff being flung in my direction as I get to indulge myself , I get to teach.
No hassles of school politics, no one going mad about a report Or analysis needing done. Just me, the weans and some magic making.
I suppose it all goes back to my mantra in the morning: cannae have inspired weans if you don’t have inspired teachers.

Leadership in the time of cholera

I was recently asked if I would contribute to some training on leadership. I was asked by a friend who lives and breathes it and is very well versed on it and the training in it.
I guess it felt like a premier league footballer asking for haunners from a Tuesday night 5s player.
My initial reactions were:
1.are you drunk?
2.I have nothing to bring to this table so chase yersel.

However, I guess, sometimes hearing from someone who has actually had the experience is more helpful than books and a day of trust exercises as you let your team mates fall in the river. So perhaps against my better judgement I agreed to do the first session of what looked like a very busy and intense day.
I was asked for the title of my talk. Eh? It was bad enough I was potentially going to be caught out by my professional friend never mind a serious title.
After much deliberation, I opted for leadership in the time of cholera, hoping there might be a few who would get the link.
Much like myself, I decidedly keep the presentation low tech, and talk from the heart. With a bit of HGIOS organisation to keep me from wandering off the track, I spent 35 minutes attempting to do justice to the rock stars I worked with and the most wonderful time that we had.

The link to leadership In the time of cholera was both about taking the path less travelled and despite dalliances, that eternal hope of true love. The doing what society expects even if it makes you miserable for years but eventually a happy ever after.
It was also the notion of being ragin’.
You see when I had the privilege of being a leader,to start with,everyone was ragin.
Weans were ragin as they were not having the best experience they could. The department were ragin as he we as were ragin and the senior management were squeezing them for results, numbers and being encore annoyed that a discipline policy was not working and the walls were getting decorated in referrals. And….the senior management were ragin as the weans were ragin and the staff were ragin.

Leadership?it was a UN peacekeeper and the winner from the bake-off that was needed.

1.1 Self evaluation for self-improvement.
My question to the girls was – what do you want when you come to work?
The answer was very surprising: I would like to enjoy coming to my work and I would like more learners to achieve.
So I had to set about creating an environment where people were happy to be at work ( bake-off champion time) and where they had the space to teach in a way that would engage our learners and give them every chance to achieve.
( my honest evaluation was a bomb under the department for improvement)
1.3 Leadership of Change
We had to establish a shared vision that I constantly reassured my girls I was carrying the can for. I needed them to believe in me, my ability to lead, manage and most importantly care for them. Cannot have inspired learners without inspired teachers.
We looked at the pressing needs for change particularly in the curriculum and teaching and learning process and made a short-term development plan that we could actually do! That would have an immediate impact. That was a real working document we could continue to reflect on and work with. And a realistic timescale, with measurable outcomes.
1.2 leadership of learning
For me, it was about the leadership of the learning of the teachers first. My girls were amazing but there were holes in their CVs and teaching toolkit and that gave me the opportunity allow them to develop both as teachers but as leaders too.
A few of them had maybe been treading water for a bit and needed a new challenge, and that’s what we did. I needed help to sort out assessment, mentoring and new approaches to teaching and learning,and the girls were delighted to be asked. And for want of a better phrase, got tore in, Heid first.
Not because they had to,because they wanted to. They were part of the change. They were the change.
We created a silent revolution and it did not go unnoticed.
We looked at the learning of our children and young people and listened to them. The ethos of the place changed. Staff were happy to be there, learners were happy to be there, we had a curriculum that we liked, staff had the freedom to teach in a way they wanted. I took as many of the challenging sets as I could, took all the detentions, and let my staff do what they did best, teach.
In turn, we developed a sense of trust with each other and we moved forward together at a frightening pace.
I suppose that combines well with
2.2 curriculum
Our curriculum was exactly that. Ours. It was relevant and up to date, which in turn engaged the teachers. It was flexible and reviewed constantly. We had lively debate about what was going well and what needed chucked out the window.
We created pathways for every single learner and witnessed a shift in attitudes from school staff. Maybe our subject wasn’t actually as mince as they thought.
We began to see a real change in engagement from learners and staff. People were curious.
What is it you do? Why are you doing it? Who do you think you are?
1.4 leadership and management of staff.
“You stopped me being a screamer”
It’s amazing what happens when you de-escalate a situation. We had difficult conversations about acceptable use of ICT, about neck lines that were too low ( Washin was indeed flashed) and how it was never acceptable to say certain things to students. We had conversations about professional judgement, heated discussions about behaviour, tears and snotters when needed it and we had days when I felt all I could do for my staff was make tea and feed them cake.
Any opportunity that came to my department was offered to staff, they were given all the CLPL they needed and some. A few of us were working parents and we often felt we couldn’t be part of the school community after school. I decided that I would do Saturday school in the morning and took my daughter with me, the girls got involved top, bringing their wee people too. This got up the nose of other staff who thought we were trying to create a 6 day standard working week. Aye. As if.
My job was to set an example of what we could do and work my derrière off to prove to the staff that they mattered.
We mattered. Our learners mattered and we were there to put a dent in the establishment.
In a good sense.
2.3 Learning, Teaching & Assessment
Weans learned. We taught and learned. We assessed. In a manageable, real way. We changed the format of pupil profiles a million times. We stripped out CfE jargon from Pupil work. We talked about teaching, we were observed teaching from all over the authority. What is it we were doing that was getting such a reputation?
We enjoyed teaching. We created an environment where we were engaged, hence our weans were.
Assessment – stripped it back and changed the format. I refused to do setting exams at the end of a stage and annoyed a lot of people. My challenge to that was if you want to know about the weans- come and ask me. Data was demanded, I stuck my head, shoulders and Latina Ass above the parapet and said no. That divided the SMT….half of them thought I was a lunatic, the others thought I was a demented genius. Jury is still out.
We developed the curriculum, taught the weans and reported to parents.
3.2 raising attainment and achievement
Flexible curriculum. Top quality teaching and learning, weans at the centre. 3.2 sorted.

Regrets? Hunners of them. Leadership style? All my very own. Transformative change? You better believe it.
Where did I learn?
I watched and listened over the years. I got to know my staff, and I listened.
An absolute joy.
Leadership…….my way.

Would you do it for free?


The question was asked….would you still do your job if you were not paid for it?
The immediate responses from my non teaching friends was not a chance!
I mean there are lots of things I would do without being paid: gin tasting, cake tasting, restaurant reviewer, shoe wearer.
Even when I have had a frustrating day ( and for the record it’s usually with procedure) I really can’t imagine doing anything else.
My love for all things in Education comes from wanting to make a difference and being prepared to put my head and probably more importantly my heart on the line to do so.
I always feel so sad when I talk with colleagues who came into education to make a difference and seem to spend their time doing the exact opposite.
The role models in my career have been for various reasons, but ultimately they have a place in my heart because they made a difference to children. The big blue sky radicalists,the classroom teacher, the student teachers but most importantly ( again)the weans.
It’s easy to feel that you are not making a difference when you don’t see an instant impact of what you do, yet,very often the difference we make on a daily basis cannot be quantified.
Having the chance to influence, education and care for people is surely one of the most privileged positions to be in.
To quote Roald Dahl:
I began to realise how important it was to be an enthusiast in life. He taught me that if you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it full speed ahead. Embrace it with both arms, hug it, love it and above all be passionate about it. Lukewarm is no good, hot is no good either. White hot and passionate is the only thing to be.
Please don’t tell my boss I would work for nothing. I have a shoe habit to feed and a 7-year-old who is developing one too….

Nobody asked me…..did they ask you?


I had to stop myself poking my eye out with a fork as I read the latest thoughts on education from the politicians as we get ready to go into battle season.

Many of the people I’m influnced by in education have written on this and have been vocal. ….and they are not wrong.

I have no idea what politicians think they are doing by promising huge amounts of money to “poor children” but without proper vision, guidance and enterprise, no amount of well meaning celebrities dressing down for visits to schools are going to convince me it’s a good idea.
Just what is it our darling politicians think they are helping?
Of course there are obvious things like resources and extra classes but a new text book wont change attitudes, give wifi access, build confidence or fan a flame of passion.

When I was PT, I couldn’t commit to a lot of extra classes after school as I had a wee lady who needed picked up so i started doing saturday sessions. Most of the girls in my dept were happy to pitch in where they could and did so happily. We were fuelled with coffee and pain au chocolat and so were the weans. They came in for the morning, were fed, watered and had a quiet place to work with no bells.
We originally took a bit of stick for it but when we explained we couldnt stay during the week, things changed.
Hungry weans cant work. Stressed out weans cant concentrate.
Teachers with emails pinging cant work. Teachers with deadlines, paper mountains of evidence to compile and insufficient training cant teach.
We had a lovely time on a saturday and our own wee people did too.

I have to admit that as a pupil who came from an area that would be in receipt of a lot of the poor weans cash, the difference was the teacher.
Having worked since the start of my teaching career in areas that will no doubt be labelled for the poor weans money,  the difference was the teaching staff.

Staff who could inspire, encourage and show that weans could do it. Teachers who did everything wirh the child at the centre. Who sometimes took risks with the process of learning to engage young people. Who invested in themselves to be the best teacher they could possibly be. Teachers who worked with children who had no confidence or belief in themselves. Teachers who taught from the heart. ( and were like burst couches through the emotional energy they invested every day)

Testing weans constantly wont improve standards.
Labelling schools wont help either.
But then what would I know? ……

The end of the road…..

Well actually in the middle, there stood a stag looking like he was up for a square go.
I had the joy of heading up to the very north of Scotland to visit a student teacher and I don’t think I have ever had a more beautiful journey to work. It was a gorgeous clear day and we had about an 80 minute drive. I had the easy bit of just sitting back and taking it all on. Every time we turned another breathtaking sight was waiting, mountains, lochs, snow,
We were driving along and this massive big stag just walked on to the road with not a care in the world. He was the same colour as a lot of the heather on either side of us so we had not really seen him move. He just stared at us, and while it was absolutely majestic, I couldn’t help but feel slightly concerned as to what he was going to do.
He trotted on and we had a wee giggle and drove on. It was harder for my student. As she couldn’t enjoy the journey for concentrating whereas I just back and let the world pass me by as we drove and chatted.
Arriving at the school I was struck by how different it looked to the schools I have worked in or been part of.
I didn’t feel the crackle of energy or excitement but there was a quiet calm as the young people arrived. What I didn’t really take into account is that some of them had been travelling for about an hour to get to school – some of them for over 40 miles one way!
The teaching staff were a lovely bunch and they didn’t seem to have that stressed out look at the start of the day! School role of just over 200, community facilities in school, big emphasis on outdoor learning.
Then the same challenges as any other school: subject uptake, curriculum structures, new quality assurance procedures, lack of resources and workload.
I suppose I could make a list of the advantages of teaching in that kind of environment and a similar list of why it wouldn’t suit me.
However, it was indeed a lovely day and I found myself laughing once again at what a small world we live in. I discovered a teacher in this school was the teacher I had replaced in my probation. The Headteacher was from near my hometown and we knew some of the same people. Hundreds of miles away!
I enjoyed listening to the chat from the staff and their ideas about teaching and their ideas about what they thought it was like in the central belt.
One thing that is clear, weans are weans regardless of where we teach them. Dynamics vary within a city never mind a region.
I loved the day with my student, she is a real star and I have had s lovely journey with her as she has gone through her ITE. I really enjoyed the travelling as well believe it or not. The time to think and best of all read!
It’s the perfect excuse to think without being interrupted and actually have time to process.
Strolling, having a look a look at the oncoming traffic for a bit then moving on. I think that stag has the right idea.

Standardised learners?



So it is all over the news that standardised testing is going to be the saviour of education and every poor child ( and their granny of course)
Nearly choked on my cornflakes when I read it in the papers. The cage was indeed rattled. Nothing to get knickers knotted more than a headline claiming league tables will help poor pupils. They must be those new fangled league tables that provide, financial aid, confidence, a quiet place to work, an environment free from ridicule and the patience of a saint.
I’ll take a bucketload of them.
It’s all about the data. It’ll get turned into a pie, line, bar and something else and there will be wailing, tears, snotters and general stress levels high enough that there won’t be a scale in the land that can measure them.
Aye, batter in.
In a previous life I remember sitting in a meeting with my fellow PTs with the SMT talking about 3rd year exams. When I said I wasn’t doing them there was an awkward silence, phones were checked and papers will rattled.
Cue a DHT who was about to explode “would you mind telling me WHY you think it’s not a good idea”
It wasn’t that I thought it was not a good idea, I thought what they wanted in terms of data, was not going to advance the experience or attainment of my pupils.
For me, a test out of 30 wasn’t going to give any kind of picture about my learners. Senior management by this point we’re getting a bit red and asking me how they were supposed to put the learners into a spread sheet and accurately predict how the students were going to perform.
“If you want to know how the weans are doing, why don’t you ask me?” The stunned silence suggested that I might as well have done the can can on the table.
I sat for the rest of meeting feeling like a naughty school girl. A few members of staff spoke to me after it asking why I was so sure I didn’t need to do testing. Simple reason, I knew my weans,my staff knew the weans and we were confident in our ability as professionals to articulate how our weans were coping and progressing.
Yes, we had summative data for particular skills that involved extracting information but we needed to use professional judgement. We did. Why? Because we are professionals and we knew our stuff. We still do.
End of.
( and if we didn’t, we would make sure we did)

Standardised testing suggests standardised learners. Never met a class of them yet.